The gang have fallen into the role of being official huntsman and huntresses quite nicely, continuing to impress their superiors and improve on their abilities. However, the gang may need all the training and help they can get, because as the title of the episode would suggest, sparks are about to fly throughout the kingdom of Atlas.
The episode opens up with a…training montage. The audience get to see RWBY working alongside the Ace Ops and the rest of the Atlesian military in their duties, whether that be guarding the city walls, clearing out Grimm, protecting supply runs, continuing to train or, in Jaune’s case, walking kids across the street to go to school. This isn’t actually a bad scene. In fact, the song sung by Casey Lee Williams in the background as well as the showing the day-to-day lives of team RWBY makes this a fun scene to watch how the students fall into their new role.
The problem is, Rooster Teeth has done something similar with another of their shows. Even when Jaune makes coffee for himself, then makes coffee for Marrow Amin seems very reminiscent of the montage in gen:LOCK, when Kazu first starts cooking breakfast for himself then making it for the rest of his team. This isn’t bad or anything, it just feels all too familiar.
‘Sparks’ also features the return of team FNKI, a group of huntsmen that team RWBY at the Vytal festival during Volume 3. This episode shows just how far the animation department at Rooster Teeth has come over the years: one of the characters Neon Katt has a rainbow following them whenever they move (the reference is not lost on me). In volume three, it was just a kind of block effect that followed the character. However, in this volume, the effect has improved vastly, being shown through misty particle effects. It’s pretty cool to see the development on screen in such an obvious manner.
From there ‘Sparks’ switches to Ruby helping out a supply run, clearly exhausted from her work. It does show some nice relationship development between Ruby and Penny, as well as Qrow and Clover (looks like that ship is sailing quite nicely). Qrow also points out that he has stopped his drinking: seems like his encounter with the Apathy in the previous volume straightened him out. One of the more regular themes of RWBY is leaving a legacy to the next generation, and this pops up during a conversation between the two huntsmen: “What good is saving the world without another generation waiting in the wings? Hopefully, they’ll leave Remnant better than we left it for them.”
However, the wholesomeness of the scene stops when the convoy is blocked off, and finally, the character of Robyn Hill is introduced. Voiced by Cristina Valenzula, Clover describes her as ‘Mantle’s hometown hero’ and though she appears to be a huntress, she’s also a potential council woman. She has an intimidating presence, confronting the convoy, questioning why “construction materials to fix Mantle’s outer wall are on their way to the middle of nowhere”. If it wasn’t for Penny, it seemed like Robyn had no qualms about attacking the convoy if need be.
Needless to say, with everything else going on in Atlas and Mantle, she looks to be another problem to add to the pile. Even with that being said, it does seem that Clover is sympathetic to her cause as he tells her ‘good luck at the election’ with a sad look on his face, as if to say he wish he could help. Though she is an interesting character, hopefully the plot doesn’t get too cluttered by adding another player to the drama.
The episode moves to Weiss and Winter sparring with their avatars, Weiss using the knight which she defeated in the White trailer and Winter using an evolved version of a Beowulf. Again, the episode shows just how far the animation has developed, showing more fluid motion in the short but intense fight, and showing off those particle effects again. It’s also nice to see the sisters having a bonding moment after their bit of training, even if it is over their mutual hatred of their dad and distancing themselves from the family name.
Weiss brings up the topic of secrets when she asks Winter if she can be sure Ironwood is telling her everything. That is when Winter reveals a military secret to Weiss: they are keeping an eye on the current Winter maiden, who is on her deathbed, and are doing whatever they can to make sure Winter will be the next maiden. Another theme that the show is known for pops up again, and that is the theme of destiny, with Winter taking pride in her newfound responsibility as its unique to her and no one else.
The episode concludes with Weiss and Winter watching a transmission from Jacques Schnee effectively setting off a powder keg by throwing Ironwood under the bus for tightening his dust embargo and causing the public in Mantle to riot, Winter calling it “the spark that’s going to light this kingdom on fire”.
‘Sparks’ is a pretty good episode as far as development goes. It shows further bond building between key characters and is a testament to how much RWBY and the efforts of Rooster Teeth have come. However, with the introduction of all these new characters, some of the other characters have been put on the back burner. For example, where is Maria, the character who was supposed to be Ruby’s mentor in the previous volume?
It’s nice to see some minor characters from previous volumes make an appearance, but the cast is getting a bit cluttered, with some characters not getting any screen time at all. Hopefully, this is an issue that doesn’t carry further into the volume, but it could be an issue if not handled properly. However, with the kingdom of Atlas ready to go off at any point, it’s going to be exciting to see how our heroes will be able to save the day.
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Sparks represents what will hopefully be a key turning point in the volume and is a milestone in Rooster Teeth's animation efforts, but risks doing a little too much in terms of plot.
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